Aaand another post about breastfeeding. Feel free to skip this one if you so choose.
We did it, Everett. We made it to 12 months of nursing. It was 12 months ago that I made the commitment to do whatever it took to breastfeed. We have had our ups and downs, both physically and emotionally, but at the same time this has been a rewarding and life-changing experience. I would not trade it for anything.
While washing out my pump parts at work in the public restroom, I have been asked a handful of times, "How much longer are you planning to do that?" or "How old is your baby now?" These questions are asked with a crinkled nose and curled upper lip.
There are many options as to how one can respond to these questions. You can go off on a tangent about how the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months; or how the World Health Organization recommends continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age. Or maybe how breastfeeding helps defend against infections, prevent allergies, and protect against a number of chronic conditions. Here's my reasoning: it is free, it is convenient, it's exercise while sitting on your ass, and it is an incredible way to bond with your baby.
I could spout off all these facts when questioned about the decisions I make as a mother, but my simple, go-to answer is this: "As long as he wants me to, I will breastfeed my baby." And despite what the purists say, Everett is getting to the point where he no longer wants to see my boob - particularly Ol' Lefty (we've come full circle).
I will NEVER sit back and judge a mom who feeds formula to her baby. This is because I know how challenging nursing can be. If you have followed this blog, you know what I have been through. That being said, I might judge a mom who feeds chicken nuggets to her baby...Oh wait, I've done that...shoot. Everett's never had celery, so I'll judge a mom who feeds her baby celery. Phew, glad I figured that one out. Anyway, breastfeeding is a commitment, and an extremely personal decision. If you too are committed to embarking on this journey and are physically able to do so, I have learned a few things that I would like to share.
- Hospitals hand out nipple shields like candy on Halloween. If you are told by a nurse that you have flat or inverted nipples, but have never noticed them being flat or inverted in the past, run for the hills! IV fluids administered in the hospital may have swollen your lady parts. Unless you truly have flat or inverted nipples, you probably don't need the nipple shield. See the link in the previous sentence for advice on other techniques you can try when nursing with flat or inverted nipples.
- In the beginning, latch that baby as often as you can. You can always sleep while nursing. And a two-week old baby is NOT ready for a schedule. Even Babywise recognizes this.
- Kellymom.com is your b(r)est friend, as is the My Brest Friend. We still used the Boppy for propping and nursing on-the-go, but I feel more comfortable when using the My Brest Friend at home. The only downside is that it's hard to squeeze into the glider with it attached to me, so I generally only use it when nursing on the couch.
- If the doctor instructs you to supplement with formula, run for the hills! Pouring food down a baby's throat will make him/her get used to the fast flow of a bottle. You might not be able to latch your baby after this. Instead, try nursing for longer stretches to get Baby that fatty hindmilk. As we discovered, breastfed babies do not grow at the same rate as the formula charts at your pediatrician's office. And what irks me the most is that the same doctor who told you to supplement in the beginning, thus ruining your nursing experience, will likely judge you for not nursing at a later date...just warning.
- Remember that your #1 job as a mother is to give life to your baby. I tell myself this every time I get frustrated, and it really helps put things in perspective.
- It is hard to work out when you are a nursing mother. Good thing you don't have to! Breastfeeding burns 500 calories a day. I haven't been to the gym in over a year, and am still shedding pounds. Hmmm...maybe I should cancel my gym membership? Would you rather work out on a treadmill, or on the couch watching Gossip Girl? I think we all know the answer to this question.
- If you must use a bottle and still plan to nurse, use the lowest nipple flow possible. Baby turning 2 months old does not mean you should switch to size 2 nipples. Everett is still using newborn nipples on his bottles, and he is able to guzzle the milk. Switching to fast-flowing nipples may cause your baby frustration during nursing because of the slower flow, and you may end up weaning early.
- Nipple pain is temporary. Keep up the good work.
- Eat when you are hungry and drink when you are thirsty. Oatmeal is a fast, healthy treat for lactating women. Stir in some peanut butter for an extra dose of protein.
- Wear clothing that makes your goods accessible. Waiting for a flowy shirt to get out of the way, or having a bunch of fabric falling everywhere, can frustrate you and Baby. Keep it simple. Mommy costumes are the best, and you'll fit right in at the mall.
- When pumping, make sure you are relaxed and comfortable. If you are in a closet, I hope there is a lock on the door. I have a space heater in my office to keep me warm, and my phone is close so I can look at pictures of Everett/consult Kellymom.com.
- More pumping advice. Pump until you are no longer flowing, as this will protect your supply. This will also ensure Baby gets plenty of hindmilk when he/she is away from you. Breast compression and massaging may cause more to liquid gold to flow. If you think you are done, try massaging, compressing, and maybe leaning over and shaking, then pump again. You might have more to give!
- Experiment with pump shield sizes. I use a larger sized shield on one side. No two tits are created equally.
- Nursing the distracted baby...Oh, Everett drove me crazy between 4 and 6 months. Try to keep Baby stimulated during nursing. I switched him to the other side every time he got distracted, and that was enough to get him latched for another minute or so. Switch as often as possible until Baby is completely done feeding. You may also want to try grabbing a toy or ribbon for Baby to tinker with. You may need to switch rooms, turn off the TV, or switch off the lights. Worst case scenario, take a break and come back to it in 20 minutes.
- If you are baffled by your progress or lack thereof, read this article. It helped me to understand Everett's cues during those maddening milestone phases.
- Know your limits. Only you know what is best for your sanity. If switching to formula is the best decision for you and your family, then take the plunge. And try not to feel guilty (easier said than done).
I want to thank everyone for their love and support over the last year. I have learned from the experience that there are many women struggling with the growth charts. This makes me wonder why 50% of my friends with babies are in the 5th percentile. The math just doesn't add up. That being said, having been so stressed out about this topic, I would love to empower families to talk about their feelings and emotions. There are hundreds of women and men around the world who follow this blog. If you or someone you know has similar experiences, please feel free to share, as well as offer advice to others who are struggling (including myself). I put myself out there, not knowing what would happen, and discovered there were many other families who have been through the same thing, but were just too embarrassed to talk about it.
So there you have it, our nursing journey.